When Justin Rose captured the FedExCup in 2018, he became the first champion without a victory in the same Playoffs. That possibility no longer exists with the revised format of the TOUR Championship.
The winner of this week's TOUR Championship is the FedExCup champion. It's that simple. What requires a moment to understand is why all 30 in the field aren't starting the tournament at even par like usual. So, scroll past the ranking for an explanation on the format, other wrinkles of the tournament and more.
NOTE: This full-field Power Rankings includes starting score for every golfer in the field.
POWER RANKINGS: TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 30 Chez Reavie 29 Charles Howell III 28 Corey Conners 27 Bryson DeChambeau 26 Sungjae Im 25 Matt Kuchar 24 Marc Leishman 23 Abraham Ancer 22 Jason Kokrak 21 Dustin Johnson 20 Gary Woodland 19 Louis Oosthuizen 18 Lucas Glover 17 Tommy Fleetwood 16 Patrick Reed 15 Rickie Fowler 14 Kevin Kisner 13 Tony Finau 12 Paul Casey 11 Justin Rose 10 Webb Simpson 9 Xander Schauffele 8 Hideki Matsuyama 7 Brandt Snedeker 6 Adam Scott 5 Patrick Cantlay 4 Brooks Koepka 3 Rory McIlroy 2 Jon Rahm 1 Justin Thomas
The 13th TOUR Championship of the FedExCup era is unlike every other. The FedExCup Starting Strokes scoring system segregates the field by FedExCup ranking upon arrival. As the top seed, BMW Championship winner Justin Thomas begins the 72-hole competition at East Lake at 10-under. Patrick Cantlay, the 2-seed, opens at 8-under. The cascade effect continues all the way down to those seeded 26-30, who start traditionally at even par.
While there likely will be curiosity for who actually scores best, the starting leaderboard will reflect official position. If it helps understand it at first, think of the opening round as if at least one round was already played and you're viewing the continuation of the same tournament. There is no cut, so all qualifiers are guaranteed 72 holes.
The winner of the TOUR Championship will be credited with an official victory, but the earnings will be bonus in nature only. The champ will receive $15 million, the runner-up $5 million, and so on down to $395,000 for 30th place. So, there is no stand-alone purse with official money for the field. The BMW represented the last tournament of the 2018-19 season with official earnings.
The FedExCup Starting Strokes scoring system could be responsible for the end of a nine-year drought during which the top seed entering the TOUR Championship has failed to win the FedExCup. Five of the last six FedExCup champions arrived as the 2-seed, including defending champ Justin Rose. No golfer ever has won consecutive FedExCups. Only Tiger Woods (2007, 2009) has captured multiple titles.
This year's field is populated by seven golfers who started the three-event Playoffs outside the top 30 in FedExCup points. The lowest opening seed to qualify is Abraham Ancer. He started THE NORTHERN TRUST seeded 67th and parlayed it with a runner-up finish at Liberty National into debuts in the TOUR Championship and the Presidents Cup. Ancer, who is now seeded 10th, also is one of four PGA TOUR non-winners in the field. Tommy Fleetwood (22nd), rookie Sungjae Im (24th) and Jason Kokrak (30th) are the others.
The highest opening seed who failed to advance to East Lake was Shane Lowry. He started 20th and finished 33rd after going a respective T52-T48 in the first two events. He withdrew early from a pair of commitments late in the regular season, but, and of course, his consolation prize is the claret jug. Not too shabby.
After two weeks of tackling migrating host tracks, the field lands at the only site used for the TOUR Championship in Playoffs history. All but four – Ancer, Im, Kokrak and Corey Conners – have pegged it at the consistently firm and fair test of East Lake in Atlanta.
The stock par 70 tips at 7,346 yards. This is the fourth year since the nines were reversed so that the tournament concludes on a par 5 instead of a par 3. Last year's field averaged 69.617, which hit the bull's-eye of the expectation when you consider the setup and the quality of the competition.
As the longest of the par 70s in non-majors, smashing drivers is encouraged and capitalizing on the pair of par 5s is all but a prerequisite to contend. While always vulnerable, Nos. 5 and 18 surrendered a scoring average of just 4.43 last year. That's lowest in the FedExCup era since the inaugural of 2007 and fourth-easiest of 51 courses last season. With FedExCup Starting Strokes now in play, the premium of converting eagles and birdies on the eight times through these holes is more valuable than ever.
Overall, like all worthy courses, the test toughens nearer the green. Hitting the averaged-sized greens in regulation 11 or 12 times per round is keeping up with the joneses even in the tiniest field of the season.
Putting on what might be the fastest surfaces groomed by the PGA TOUR multiplies the challenge. The MiniVerde bermudagrass greens could roll up to 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. That said, top speeds are unlikely with the persistent threat and likely reality of rain throughout the week. As a result, scoring will favor the aggressive, which only will make it more difficult for those starting at the bottom of the leaderboard to gain ground. Warm and humid air won't be impacted much by light winds, either.
In addition to the richest prize in the history of the PGA TOUR, the FedExCup champion also will receive a five-year membership exemption. By qualifying for the tournament, all 30 in the field are exempt into the Masters, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, as well as the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and WGC-Mexico Championship next season.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.